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Emotional abuse is a type of abuse that you can experience in an abusive relationship. Although it doesn’t leave you with physical scars, it can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem. Emotional abuse comes in many forms, which might not be obvious at first. If you feel that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, there are a number of things you can do to get support.

This can help if:

  • you feel like you’re not good enough
  • you’re afraid of your partner leaving you
  • your partner calls you names or puts you down.
Girl holding arm

What is emotional abuse?

Many unhealthy relationships involve aspects of emotional abuse. The aim of the emotional abuser is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may feel that there is no way out or that without your partner you’ll have nothing.

Emotional abuse is related to physical abuse

Emotional abuse can feel as destructive and damaging as physical abuse, and can severely impact your mental health. It's common for physical abusers also to dish out emotional abuse as a way of maintaining power and control over you.

Types of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can involve any of the following:

  • Verbal violence – yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you.
  • Rejection – pretending not to notice your presence, or ignoring your conversation.
  • Put-downs – calling you names or telling you that you’re stupid, publicly embarrassing you, blaming you for everything.
  • Causing fear – making you feel afraid, intimidated or threatened.
  • Isolation – limiting your freedom of movement, stopping you from contacting other people (such as friends or family).
  • Financial dependence – controlling or withholding your money, preventing you from working, stealing from you.
  • Bullying – purposely and repeatedly saying or doing things that are hurtful to you.

The impact of emotional abuse

Physical violence is often seen as being more serious than emotional abuse, but this simply isn’t true. The scars of emotional abuse are real and long lasting. As well as having a negative impact on your self-esteem and confidence, emotional abuse can leave you feeling depressed, anxious and even suicidal.

If this sounds like you

If you’re experiencing emotional abuse, it’s important that you seek help. There are a number of services you can contact if you need someone to talk to.

ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options.